The County Pairs Final

by John Turner

Game All, Pairs, you are third to speak in the West seat and hold - 865 AKQJ8754 108. The bidding starts Pass from your partner, 1h from South on your right.

(1) What do you bid?

(2) Say you bid 4d, your LHO Blackwoods, RHO bids 5s (two key cards + trump queen), LHO bids 6h passed out, partner having stayed silent. What do you lead?

(3) Suppose instead South opened 1NT, not 1h, and the contract is 6h played by North - what do you lead?

On the bitterly cold morning of the County Pairs Final I unwisely played some outdoor tennis and unfortunately pulled a small muscle in my shoulder. Was that an omen? On the only previous occasion that Ann & I'd won the County Pairs I had pulled a muscle that very morning (a calf muscle, and I was hobbling around for several days). Well, omen or not, we certainly had a following wind this time and were fortunate enough to win with 59.29%, just ahead of Graham Dolan & Ben Tarlow (58.05%) and Kevin Smith & Joanne Caldwell (57.96%).

That earlier problem. The full hand was

H AK10974
D 2
C K75
S -
H 865
D AKQJ8754
C 108
W         E
S 1098543
H -
D 96
C J9432
S AQ62
H QJ32
D 103

At some tables, after Pass-1h, West bid 4d, allowing Norths a reasonable Blackwood route to 6h by South. At at least one table West bid only 3d. However, Ann is made of sterner stuff and went straight in with 5d, which really fixed North, who understandably settled for 5h, and a fine result for us.

Question 2 is quite interesting - do you go for the brilliancy and underlead your diamonds, hoping to get partner in for the spade ruff back? It always works in newspaper articles but on this occasion 6h by South is solid and all that happens is you concede the overtrick. Actually, you still get some matchpoints because one West made a Lightner double, forgetting he was on lead!

Oh, and question 3? This was quite comical. I don't know the sequence but at one table North declared 6h, not South. Forgetting that he was not on lead, West led dA out of turn. The Director explained to North his five options, one of which was to prohibit a diamond lead. You've guessed it - North took this option, East led a off! Was the dA a sort of Lightner lead?

An interesting ending developed on this hand at one table:

S AQ10976
H 763
D 8
S K432
H J94
D J743
C 105
W         E
S J8
H KQ10852
D 105
C 943
S 5
D AKQ962
C Q8762

At most tables East (the dealer) opened with a weak 2h or a Multi 2d. This made the N/S hands very hard to bid, and few pairs reached the reasonable slams. However, at one table East passed and N/S had a free run, eventually landing in 6NT by South, which is quite a decent spot. The h4 was led. Declarer ran the clubs, pitching hearts from dummy, West throwing one spade and (significantly?) the 9-J of hearts, then took two rounds of diamonds. If the diamonds are breaking he should obviously just continue diamonds. But if declarer judges that LHO had four diamonds originally, he must not play a third diamond at this point: he should finesse the sQ, cash the sA and endplay West with the third spade to lead into South's diamond tenace. Unfortunately he took the first line and now had to go one off.

Many thanks to Philip Wraight for organising and directing the event with his usual calm efficiency, and once again we all appreciated having the hands prepared by the Duplimate machine with hand records available after each session. The Fulbourn Community College was a pleasant place to play - an improvement, surely, on the hall at Comberton, which is dank and has erratic heating.